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Bizweni Changes Everything

The children cared for at the Bizweni Centre are those who frequently fall through the cracks

The last census to tabulate the number of children with severe disabilities in South Africa in 2001, estimated an amount of approximately 474 000 such minors.

The General Household Survey in 2009 classified nearly 2.1 million children (11.2 percent of the total child population) as disabled.

The real figure is no doubt far higher.

In 2020, The Mail & Guardian stated that special care centres nationwide provide support for just
11 000 children.

This indicates that 97.7% of children with disabilities do not receive any form of education, therapy or care.

We are passionate about the rights and needs of children with disability.

We are making a difference.

Aphiwe’s story

Aphiwe is a 7-year-old boy born with hydrocephalus, characterized by “fluid on the brain”, that causes pressure and results in brain damage. Many children with hydrocephalus present with an enlarged head, cognitive impairment, and physical impairment.

Aphiwe came to Bizweni Centre in the beginning of 2021, as a 5-year-old boy, unable to independently walk and move around the classroom. He was too shy to communicate his needs and to interact with staff and his peers.

After 3-6 months of receiving daily stimulation from a developmental classroom programme amongst 15 other beneficiaries, Aphiwe grew confident to engage with staff and other children and now prides himself on knowing almost all staff and classroom peers’ names. He sweetly finds pleasure in sharing love with those around him with charming hand kisses and big smiles. After 6-12 months of receiving weekly therapeutic stimulation, he is now independently mobile, using a walking frame to ambulate short distances in and around the Centre and independently moves in and out of a wheelchair and self-propels for long-distance walks and outings.

Aphiwe is such an inspiration to many of us at the centre, with his determination to function independently and with the constant joy that he exudes despite his circumstances and disability. We are so proud of him.

Thomas’s story – in his mother’s words

Our journey together started in 2019 and it has made a huge positive impact on our lives.

My son Thomas is now 6 years old. We realised he had a speech delay and was diagnosed with Autism after many battles with clinics and hospitals to try and find out why he wasn’t developing like other kids his age. When we finally had an answer, it came as a huge shock and I started blaming myself for his condition.

When our doctor told us about the Bizweni Centre for Children with Disabilities, I was very scared to entrust him to others. After Thomas’s first tour of the school he was super excited. He immediately loved the Centre and all the staff which put me at ease.

On his first day of school there were no tears, just smiles and excited giggles. He kept wanting to run into the school and go inside while I was fighting my own fears (will they be able to understand him if he wants something? Will he be OK after I left, and mostly was I doing the right thing?) I was stressing myself out for nothing as I soon found out.

Within the very same month he started communicating much better with me and his behavior completely changed. He was no longer wearing diapers thanks to the teachers who helped him by showing him how to show others, when he needed to go to the bathroom. He started eating by himself which meant I no longer had to feed him. The most precious moment for us all was when he came home and started humming songs he learned at school and then after a few month started singing words.

When the Covid pandemic happened, I was stressed thinking he’s going to fall behind with his schoolwork and therapy sessions. But all the staff members, including the bus drivers, all worked together to make sure every child didn’t fall behind and just sit at home watching tv or playing outside.

We started receiving care packages which included activity packs for the children to continue their schoolwork as well as food parcels. Our most joyful moments were when we received videos from the teachers and our family as a unit did all the activities with him.

During the pandemic, the Centre and its staff became like family. They really went the extra mile for everyone and my son adores his teachers and class mates. When the bus comes to pick him up all I see are friendly faces. The driver, teachers and all the kids smile and just radiate positive energy and when school is over, they all still have that same energy which warms my heart. We really do appreciate every staff member at the Centre for everything they do, because I know its not easy looking after an autistic child. The teachers have numerous children with different disabilities to look after and teach, so I take my hat off to them for always having a smile on their faces and never failing to give me a mini report on how his day was.

“I hope our journey will continue well into the future and that other parents will also get to experience the same love joy and happiness from seeing your child prosper and become the best person they can be.”

Zeque’s story

One of our teachers first met Zeque when he was 3 years old. Miriam saw Zeque and his Dad as they walked around their neighbourhood. She approached them and explained what services Bizweni Centre provides, and how we could help them. The very next Monday Zeque and Piet arrived at our door.

When Zeque first arrived, he was shy and quiet. He had been diagnosed as having Cerbral Palsy and was minimally verbal. Zeque responded well to the educational and therapeutic programmes we provided and his teachers noticed him slowly but surely coming out of his shell.

Bizweni facilitated the process for Zeque to receive assistive devices such as ankle-foot orthoses and built-up shoes to help correct his leg and foot alignment. With the use of a walking frame, we showed Zeque how to improve his walking using his new support. He now walks more confidently.

Today, Zeque’s teacher says he has a variety of non-verbal skills. He responds positively and is great at expressing himself in other ways. Zeque always tries hard, doesn’t give up, and has a ‘sparkly’ personality. He loves playing with his friends at Bizweni and you can often find him zooming around our bike track with the biggest smile on his face. Zeque has developed well intellectually and has shown potential for possible future placement at a registered special school.

This happy boy is never seen walking alone in his neighborhood, he rides high on his father’s shoulders. Piet is a single father, raising Zeque and his brother on his own. He is such a committed Dad and provides love, support and protection for Zeque.

We are grateful that they chose us to be part of their journey.

*names have been changed to protect their identities.